I my preview yesterday I had said that the odds for a Tochigi win were stupidly long and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they did so, and helped by the worst refereeing performance I have seen they managed to pull off victory in a bad spirited match.
After a quite bizarre pre-match wedding on the pitch Avispa started the game in good style and were managing to play some intricate passing football in the Tochigi half. Struggling to cope with the attacks Tochigi were reduced to making clearances for corners and throw-ins, and after 10 minutes gave away a free-kick just outside the area. Nakajima had returned to the team after suspension and rattled the underside of the crossbar with a powerful shot, with Yusuke having a shot well saved from the rebound.
It looked like it would only be a matter of time before one of the Avispa attacks was turned into a goal, but instead it was Tochigi who took the lead. Winning a corner the ball flicked off the top of a Tochigi player’s head and landed at the feet of Ricardo Lobo. Having already scored 12 goals this season he isn’t a player you want to give many chances, and as expected from that position he beat Kamiyama to take the lead.
Avispa didn’t need to worry as they were making chances and should have been confident they could soon equalise, and did so shortly afterwards. Winning a couple of corners the 2nd was played towards the front of the box in a difference to the previous back post ones. In a routine from the training pitch Nakamachi met the cross early and scored with a first time shot to get the deserved equaliser.
Avispa were still holding the bulk of possession and looking to break down a Tochigi team which was starting to get increasingly physical. Encouraged by a referee who was making increasingly inconsistent decisions Avispa players were getting fouled in midfield but finding the free kick was being given against them. Tochigi were playing a direct game through the middle of the pitch, which while predictable was difficult to defend against because of the quality of Tochigi’s 2 Brazilian players and incompetency of the referee. It needed a good save by Kamiyama on the edge of the box as Lobo tried to lob him to keep the scores level.
On one of the Tochigi attacks Daiki was shepherding a Tochigi player towards the corner flag, showing as clearly as he could that there was no contact against the player (holding both hands up) the referee was fooled into giving a free kick near the corner flag by a cheap dive made more out of desperation than in the expectation a free kick might be awarded.
Daiki went apoplectic against a referee quickly losing control, and must have predicted what might then follow. in a nearly identical fashion as the first goal the ball dropped at the back post area where Lobo was on hand to get to the ball first and score again. He was helped by Nakajima being held for what should have been a foul, but on this showing he was looking like a striker who would do very well at this level.
Avispa went in for half time with Daiki nursing a sore head after a horrible fall after being upended in the air by the Tochigi striker, and trailing by 2 goals to 1.
Entering the 2nd half the team must have still thought they could win the game with the amount of possession they held, and quickly got an equalising goal to start the 2nd half.
Kudo was now on the pitch having come on for Yusuke who had worryingly left the game earlier with a muscle strain to the same leg he has had problems with. Crossing the ball to Genki on the edge of the box a shot was fired through a crowded penalty area but was blocked by a defender just in front of the goalkeeper. Failling kindly to Jogo who had taken up a position in the box it was sloted home to make the scores 2-2.
Battling against a Tochigi team who were starting to get even more physical, and a referee still making incorrect decisions Avispa were going all out for a winning goal. Tochigi were often playing 11 men behind the ball, but at times when attacking still looked like they could get a goal at any time. they must have held under 40% of possession but had 2-3 players with enough quality to be able to score at any time. Avispa had Kamiyama to thank for keeping them level with several great saves including one one-handed save diving back off the goal line from a Tochigi header.
With so many people pushing forward to try and get the winning goal but not really getting much further than the edge of the area before over-complicated moves broke down I half expected it when Tochigi caught Avispa with a sucker punch as their substitute striker was set free inside the box and scored what would turn out to be the winner with just 4 minutes remaining.
Half the team left the pitch without shaking the referee’s hand, but should still know that they are still at least 4 points ahead after this weekend with only 5 games left to play.
Number of corners: 14. (Avispa 10 Tochigi 4)